Areas of Strength

American Literature and Culture

The special area of strength is our largest, with numerous PhD candidates working in these fields and an increasing number of PhD graduates now tenured or in tenure lines at colleges and universities around the country. The Americanist faculty is particularly strong in African American studies, with the work of Jennifer James, James A. Miller, and Gayle Wald directly focused on African American literature and culture, and with the work of Antonio López and Robert McRuer also sustaining important connections to the field. The program has additional strengths in an array of other fields concerned with the construction of subjectivities and identities in modernity and postmodernity; these include Asian and Asian American studies, postcolonial theory (particularly postcolonial studies of India), women’s studies and gender studies, feminist theory, Latino/a studies, lesbian and gay/queer studies, disability studies, popular culture studies (particularly studies of music and American culture), and composition theory. Doctoral candidates in these fields are completing dissertations on discourses of addiction in twentieth-century cultures, the intersections of Asian American studies and disability studies, the ethics of “standard English” in the composition classroom, and many other topics.

Publications by faculty interested in postcolonial studies, American literary and cultural studies, and theoretical considerations of subjectivity address a wide range of issues. Recent important book publications include:

  • Marshall Alcorn, Changing the Subject in English Class: Discourse and the Constructions of Desire
  • Patricia Chu, Assimilating Asians: Gendered Strategies of Authorship in Asian America
  • Robert McRuer, Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability and The Queer Renaissance: Contemporary Literature and the Reinvention of Lesbian and Gay Identities
  • Ann Romines, Constructing the Little House: Gender, Culture, and Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Gayle Wald, Shout, Sister, Shout!: The Untold Story of Rock-and-Roll Trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Crossing the Line: Racial Passing in Twentieth-Century U.S. Literature and Culture
  • James A. Miller, Moments of Scottsboro: The Scottsboro Case and American Culture, 1931-2001
  • Jennifer James, A Freedom Bought with Blood: African American War Literature, the Civil War-World War II
  • Kavita Daiya, Violent Belongings: Partition, Gender and National Culture in Postcolonial India
  • Chris Sten, Savage Eye: Melville and the Visual Arts; The Weaver-God, He Weaves: Melville and the Poetics of the Novel; Sounding the Whale: Moby-Dick as Epic Novel; co-editor, "Whole Oceans Away": Melville in the Pacific
  • Antonio López, Havana to Harlem: Race and Diaspora in Twentieth-Century Cuban-American Literature and Culture (forthcoming, NYU Press)

Recent PhD dissertations in postcolonial and American subjectivities include:

  • Amy Nelson Bangerter, ‘Chinese Youth and American Educational Institutions, 1850-1881’ (2005)
  • Shannon Cate, ‘Not Our Memory: Contested Visions of Family at the Turn of the American Century’ (2004)
  • Colin Ambrose Clarke, ‘In the Ward: Issues of Confinement in Mid-Twentieth Century American Poetry’ (2001)
  • Brian Flota, ‘Flight to San Francisco: Bay Area Literature and Multiculturalism, 1955-1979’ (2006)
  • Joseph Fruscione, ‘Modernist Dialectic: William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, and the Anxiety of Influence, 1920-1962’ (2005)
  • Lisbeth Fuisz, ‘Contested Narratives of Nation Building: Schools and the Construction of a Unified Citizenry in Twentieth Century U.S. Culture’ (2006)
  • Sharon Hanscom, ‘The Invisible Communists: Women’s Conception of Emancipatory Politics’ (2005)
  • Kathleen Iudicello, ‘Women Take Stage: Performance Art, Punk Rock, and Pussycat Fever’ (2005)
  • Kathleen Laura MacArthur, ‘The Things We Carry: Trauma and the Aesthetic in the Contemporary U.S. Novel’ (2005)
  • Wes Mantooth, ‘“You Factory Folks Who Sing This Song Will Surely Understand”: Cultural Representations in the Gastonia Novels of Myra Page, Grace Lumpkin, and Olive Dargan’ (2004)
  • Timothy K. Nixon, ‘The Homo-Exilic Experience: Queerness, Alienation, and Contrapuntal Vision’ (2005)
  • Dolen Perkins, ‘Mob Stories: Race, Nation and Narratives of Racial Violence’ (2002)
  • Carmen Phelps, ‘Performative Politics in Chicago: The Black Arts Movement, Women Writers, and Visions of Nation and Identity’ (2004)
  • Satarupa Sengupta, ‘Citizenship and Expatriation in U.S. Women’s Fiction, 1868-2004’ (2005)
  • David Tritelli, ‘Proletarian Literature and Everyday Life’ (2005)
  • Timothy F. Waltonen, ‘Toward a “Prosaics” of Contemporary American Short Fiction: Metonymies of “City Life” in Donald Barthelme, Grace Paley, and John Edgar Wideman’ (2004)
  • Jeri Zulli, ‘Puritans, Patriots, and Proto-Science Fiction: The Influence of Early American Culture on the Production and Consumption of Science Fiction and Utopian Fiction in American Literature

British and Postcolonial Studies, 1700 to the present

The area of strength in British and Postcolonial Studies spans the field of modern British literature and culture post 1700, often with attention to questions about Empire and its aftermath. It has especial strengths in gender in British Literature, eighteenth century literature of the British Empire, social history, aesthetics and photography, nineteenth and early twentieth-century British literature and the visual arts, and colonial and postcolonial literature and cinema.

Seminars often focus on special topics as well as surveys of literary and cultural themes in the field of British and Postcolonial Literature and Culture. Graduate courses engage a theoretically and historically attentive approach to a wide range of materials, both canonical and non-canonical, in literature as well as visual culture. Seminars often complement and connect with those offered in the MEM and ALC areas through theoretical intersections around transnational approaches, and the analysis of gender and race.


  • Kavita Daiya is the author of Violent Belongings: Partition, Gender and National Culture in Postcolonial India (Temple UP, 2008), which dwells on literary and film representations of ethnic violence and migration from the subcontinent and its diasporas. Her research engages the field of feminist colonial and postcolonial studies with American studies. Her specializations include imperialism, nationalism, gender and sexuality, public culture, postcolonial cinema and immigration. She is affiliated faculty in the Women’s Studies Program, and working on her second book on refugee narratives. She also directs a Digital Humanities video archive project
  • Daniel DeWispelare is the author of Multilingual Subjects: On Standard English, Its Speakers, and Others in the Long Eighteenth Century (UPenn, 2017). His research focuses on language politics, translation, and cultural history of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. 
  • Maria Frawley is the author of A Wider Range: Travel Writing by Women in Victorian England (1994); Anne Bronte (1996); and, most recently, Invalidism and Identity in Nineteenth-Century Britain (Chicago, 2004). She also prepared an edition of Harriet Martineau's Life in the Sick-Room for Broadview Press (2003). She authored the chapter on the Victorian Era for English Literature in Context (Cambridge, 2008). Her research interests include nineteenth-century medical history as well as print culture and histories of reading and authorship. Her current book project is titled Keywords of Jane Austen's Fiction.
  • Jennifer Green-Lewis teaches courses on British fiction (approx.1840-1930), and its relationship to the visual arts. She is the author of Framing the Victorians: Photography and the Culture of Realism (Cornell, 1996), Teaching Beauty in Delillo, Woolf, and Merrill (with Margaret Soltan; Palgrave, 2008), as well as numerous reviews and essays on nineteenth and early twentieth-century British literature and photography. Most recently, she has authored the chapter on photography in the forthcoming handbook from Oxford on Victorian Literature (2011). She is currently completing a book on Victorian photography and the invention of postmodern memory.
  • Tara Ghoshal Wallace's books include an edition of Frances Burney's A Busy Day, Jane Austen and Narrative Authority, and Imperial Characters: Home and Periphery in Eighteenth-Century Literature. She is co-editor of Women Critics, 1680-1820, and has published articles on Austen, Burney, Dr. Johnson, Tobias Smollett, Elizabeth Hamilton, and Walter Scott. Her research interests include British imperialism and national identity, literature and public history, and gender studies.

Crip/Queer Studies

The doctoral program in English at George Washington University identifies Crip/Queer Studies as one of its primary areas of strength and invites applications focused on that area of strength.  All students receive tuition remission, monthly stipend, active mentorship in teaching, research, publication, and the opportunity to develop an independent research program with our internationally recognized faculty.

Our interdisciplinary seminars explore the intersections of marginalized embodiments (disability, sexuality, transgender, race, class, age) and their rigorous analysis within cultural, historical, literary, and media contexts.  We also focus on embodiment in relationship to economic, environmental, cross-species, as well as organic and inorganic interactions.  Specialties include representation, media and communications, memoir, trauma studies, globalization, cross-cultural studies, body theory, political economy, history, narrative theory, medical humanities, and art among others.  Students are actively mentored in research, pedagogy, and professionalization.  The program also operates through collaboration with other GWU programs that include Crip/Queer Studies researchers such as The Writing Program, Philosophy, and Women’s Studies.

Our internationally recognized faculty researchers include:

Jonathan Hsy 
(Medieval Literature and Culture, Memoir/Autobiography, Translation Studies)

Robert McRuer
(Critical Theory, Globalization, 20th/21st-century American Studies, Political Economy)

David Mitchell
(Narrative Theory, Body Studies, Literature of the Americas, Disability History)

Holly Dugan
(Early Modern Literature & Culture, Theories of Embodiment, Animal Studies)

Jeffrey Cohen
(Medieval Literature & Culture, Theories of Embodiment, Ecotheory)

Maria Frawley
(Victorian Literature & Culture, Cultures of Invalidism, Medical Humanities)

Marshall Alcorn
(Trauma Studies, Psychoanalysis, Neurobiology, Narrative Theory, Rhetoric}

A sampling of recent graduate seminars, or courses eligible for graduate credit, include:

Queer Theory, Now and Then (transtemporal course on contemporary and early modern queer studies)

New Materialisms: Disability, Cross-Species Identifications, and Environment

Medieval Disability Studies

Transnational Film Studies and LGBTQ Cultures

Introduction to Queer Theory

Introduction to Disability Studies

*While there are many publications and research efforts in which our core faculty group is involved we comprise a significant number of members on the editorial boards of key Disability Studies journals such as The Journal of Literature and Cultural Disability Studies, Disability Studies Quarterly, and Disability & Society.  Every other year we run the GWU symposium titled, Composing Disability, in collaboration with the Disability Support Services Office.

Medieval and Early Modern Studies

The area of strength in medieval and early modern studies was formed to take advantage of university-wide faculty strengths in these areas as well as the rich resources for research available in Washington DC—most notably, the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library, and the Library of Congress.

Seminars focus upon the transnational and postcolonial aspects of England and Europe. Special topics courses and surveys of literary and cultural themes are also offered. Graduate seminars examine a wide range of materials both canonical and non-canonical. Students are also expected to take some of their coursework through the Folger seminar series.

The English Department houses the GW Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute. The Institute sponsors frequent events and focuses upon early Europe within a transnational, theory-savvy frame.

Faculty members who regularly teach in the graduate program share many interests and have published widely.

  • Holly Dugan's scholarship focuses on questions of gender, sexuality, material culture, and the boundaries of the body in late medieval and early modern England. She is currently working on a book-length project that examines the ephemeral history of perfume and the role of smell in early modern culture. She is also working on a project that examines the relationship between queer and feminist histories of sexuality through early modern accounts of ravishment.
  • Jonathan Hsy primarily focuses on late medieval literature, with particular interests in trade, travel, and translation. His current book project examines how Anglo-French exchange and international commerce influenced the work of multilingual writers in pre-modern London. His research and teaching interests also include translation theory and sociolinguistics; medieval manuscript production; early print culture; romance and travel writing; rhetoric and poetics; and postcolonial theory.
  • Jeffrey Jerome Cohen is the author of HybridityIdentity and Monstrosity in Medieval Britain: On Difficult MiddlesMedieval Identity Machines; and Of Giants: Sex, Monsters, and the Middle Ages. He is the editor of Thinking the Limits of the Body (with Gail Weiss); The Postcolonial Middle AgesBecoming Male in the Middle Ages (with Bonnie Wheeler); and Monster Theory: Reading Culture. He blogs at In the Middle. His research interests include postcolonial approaches to the past; identity, corporeality and subjectivity; the posthuman; temporality; and critical theory.
  • Alexa Huang is general editor of The Shakespearean International Yearbook, the author of Chinese Shakespeares: Two Centuries of Cultural Exchange (Columbia University Press), which received the MLA Scaglione Prize, and editor or co-editor of Shakespeare in Hollywood, Asia and CyberspaceClass, Boundary, and Social Discourse in the Renaissance; and three journal special issues on topics related to Shakespeare on stage and on screen, including Shakespeare: Journal of the British Shakespeare Association. She has co-founded Global Shakespeares, an open-access digital video archive and research project. Her research interests include digital humanities, cultural globalization, Shakespeare and early modern English drama, transnational performance and film studies, and critical theory.

The English Department also numbers among its members the Miltonist Patrick Cook. Other early modern scholars at the George Washington University include Linda Peck (History), Marcy Norton (History), Leah Chang (French), Ingrid Creppell (Political Science) and Sergio Waisman (Spanish).

English Department Graduate Handbook, updated Spring 2014 (PDF)